The historic Oaklawn horse track in Hot Springs, Ark., is allowing spectators onto the infield during races on Saturdays and Sundays.
Earlier this month, the management at Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort opened the infield for Saturday races. Starting this weekend, the infield also will be open for Sunday races, according to Oaklawn’s Instagram page.
Masks and social distancing are required on the infield, according to the track’s website. Chairs and blankets are allowed. Coolers, tents, and backpacks are prohibited.
Joan Botts, Oaklawn’s marketing vice president, urged fans to enjoy the infield while being mindful of COVID-19 health concerns, according to KTHV-TV.
We’re sensitive, and we know that the public is sensitive, to the fact that there is still a pandemic that we’re still coming out of, coming off of, and we need to be respectful of that,” she said.
The 57-day racing season opened Jan. 22 and ends May 1.
The race track at Oaklawn has a storied history, dating back more than a century. Its annual Arkansas Derby is considered an important prelude to the Triple Crown races. One of the most celebrated Arkansas Derby winners, American Pharoah, won the Triple Crown in 2015.
Oaklawn is in Hot Springs, about an hour southwest of Little Rock, the state capital. Little Rock is in central Arkansas.
Casinos operated illegally but openly in Hot Springs for decades until authorities shut them down in the 1960s. During this period, the most notorious gangsters in the country vacationed in Hot Springs. They included Al Capone, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, and Frank Costello.
Casino gambling in the Hot Springs area is only permitted now at Oaklawn. It is one of three full casinos operating in the state. The other two are Southland Casino Racing in West Memphis and Saracen Casino Resort in Pine Bluff. A fourth casino has been licensed for Russellville, but is tied up in a legal dispute.
Expansion at Southland
Earlier in March, Southland announced it has returned to a seven-day, 24-hour schedule. Southland is across the Mississippi River from the larger Memphis, Tenn., metropolitan area.
The resort also is embarking on a $250 million expansion, adding a 20-story, 300-room hotel to the site, according to the Memphis Business Journal. The expansion, which will include a new gaming complex, is expected to be completed in 2022.
The greyhound track at Southland is scheduled to cease operations at the end of 2022, leaving only Iowa and West Virginia with legal dog racing.
If the dog track in Iowa also closes next year, as expected, West Virginia would be the only state with legal dog racing.
Bond Set in Casino Shooting
In Pine Bluff, a Jefferson County judge has set a $150,000 bond for a suspect in a shootout at Saracen between patrons and security, according to Deltaplex News. A security officer was wounded in the incident.
Brandon Burnett, 27, was booked into jail on Monday, facing charges of first-degree battery and discharging a firearm from a vehicle.
The March 11 incident began when security escorted several patrons out to the parking lot area, police said. The patrons created a disturbance inside the casino.
In an exchange of gunfire, a guard was shot in the stomach. Authorities said the wound was not life-threatening.
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